Ballyscullion House was one of three grand residences built by the eccentric prelate, Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry.
It is not to be confused with the present Ballyscullion Park, erstwhile seat of the Bruce and Mulholland baronets (still inhabited by descendants of the Mulhollands).
The Earl-Bishop's other seats were at Downhill, also in County Londonderry, and Ickworth, in Suffolk.
Ballyscullion was built close to the shore of Lough Beg, a small lough at the north-west corner of Lough Neagh; near the village of Bellaghy in County Londonderry.
Construction on the house began in 1787 and, like Ickworth, its predominant feature was a central, domed rotunda joined by curved sweeps to rectangular pavilions.
Below is an illustration of what the Earl Bishop's palace at Ballyscullion would have looked like, had it been fully completed.
The central rotunda was virtually completed but ca 1803-04, it was almost completely dismantled to avoid the alleged application of the 'window tax'.
The portico at the front entrance door was taken away to Belfast where it can be seen to this day adorning St George's Church in High Street, Belfast.
Ballyscullion House was apparently based on the 1774 house at Belle Isle, Lake Windermere.
Belle Isle house (which still remains) was very probably based on the Pantheon in Rome.
The Ballyscullion 'Palace' was, in its turn, to be the prototype for Ickworth House in Suffolk - the Herveys' principal country seat.
The Earl Bishop lost interest in the house, afterwards known as the "Bishop's Folly", and it was still uncompleted at the time of his lordship's death in 1803, though inhabited and partly furnished.
Ballyscullion and Downhill were bequeathed to the Earl Bishop's kinsman, the Rev Henry Hervey Aston Bruce, immediately afterwards created a baronet.
Unwilling to have to maintain two great houses in the same county, the 1st Baronet demolished Ballyscullion a few years after inheriting it.
Its fine portico is now at St George's Church (below) in Belfast, some marble columns and chimney-pieces are at Portglenone House; and other chimney-pieces adorn Bellarena House.
Some of the stone was later used to build the present mansion house, also known as Ballyscullion Park.
The part-walled demesne was established about 1787 and the old palace is now denoted by a heap of rubble in woodland, having been partly demolished in 1813.
Nearby stands the present house designed by Charles (later Sir Charles) Lanyon in the 1840s for Admiral Sir Henry Bruce, 2nd son of the 1st Baronet.
Until recent years this house was the home of the late Sir Henry Mulholland, Bt, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament.
It overlooks Lough Beg and distant mountains beyond, affording fine views and incorporating the spire of a church on an island in the lough.
This was added as a folly tower to provide an eye-catcher from the original house.
The Earl Bishop chose the spot for his late 18th century building as he considered it, ‘… not to be inferior to any Italian scenery’.
The foreground to the lough is in the manner of parkland with stands of trees.
There are effective shelter belts in what is flat, exposed land.
Near to the stable yard lies the part-walled garden, which is cultivated as an ornamental and productive garden for present-day family use.
During Victorian times, the Bruce Baronets were the largest landowners in County Londonderry, with 20,801 acres.
The history of the Hervey/Bruce families can be read in the Hervey/Bruce Papers deposited at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Bristol arms courtesy of European Heraldry. First published in February, 2010.